Symphony In

Black + White

text courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

photos by Haute Photography

When fashion encounters art, the meeting of the two prompts connections and considerations heretofore unseen. The three-dimensionality of a garment can activate the materiality of paint on paper: the graphic qualities of a painting may elicit the strictly visual elements of a fabric or material. Viewed side by side, their differences create a larger sphere, made up of positive and negative space, for the viewer to explore and appreciate both media.

Pairing a series of gowns by fashion designer Yeohlee Teng with large-scale oilstick screen prints by artist Richard Serra, Yeohlee l Serra highlights connections between two artists at the intersection of fashion and art. Although conceived independently, their work shares creative and philosophical connections, including a bold use of geometry and proportion in relation to space and the human form, as well as a strictly black-and-white color scheme. Both artists consider the inherent qualities of their materials the guiding force of their work.

Garment; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Yeohlee Teng, 1955S. Spring 1992, Byron.Black and ivory double-faced silk satin evening gown with sculpted bodice and black slit.

Richard Serra, Alberta Hunter, 1984. Paintstick on silkscreen on coated paper. Phoenix Art Museum, gift of Orme Lewis.

Richard Serra, best known for his large-scale, site-specific sculptures, has been making prints since the early 1970’s and continues to create works today with the Los Angeles-based printers at G.E.L. By building up layers of black oilstick on oversized paper, his intensely-textured prints employ experimental processes that expand the boundaries of traditional screen-printing techniques.


Yeohlee Teng opened her own fashion house, YEOHLEE, in 1981. Teng’s striking, geometrical approach to design has made her name synonymous with modernity and functionalism in fashion. Using a neutral color palette and minimal seaming, she is known for her ability to explore a piece of cloth with mathematical precision, transforming the fabric into a three-dimentional garment with little to no waste. Three of the five gowns featured in this instillation are each cut from seven meters of black and ivory double-faced silk satin, and the additional designs follow a similar rigor.

“I have a deep reverence for textiles,,” Teng says of her approach to design. “Geometry comes into play, as do numbers. I think there are magical properties to numbers and if you marry the right number systems together, you have a garment that has magical proportions.”